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Where do good ideas come from?

“Art is the imagination at play in the field of time. Let yourself play.” [1]

Do you ever wonder where your good ideas come from? Have you ever tried tracing them back to their source/s? When you have writer’s block or the equivalent, how do you deal with it? How do you regain your creativity?

Tonight I’m meeting with a group of artists to discuss a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. One of the first things she mentions is that you can’t teach a person to be creative – you can only teach them to let themselves be creative.

How do you “let yourself be creative”? Where does creativity come from? How can you get more good ideas?

This RSA Animate with Steven Johnson suggests that most ideas come from one small hunch colliding with other small hunches:


“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian.

Has there ever been a completely “new” idea or invention that wasn’t connected with already existing ideas and inventions? I don’t think so. I think it’s the nature of our being to continually be in a state of evolution – with now more than ever, small changes and small ideas joining together to make bigger ones, which combine in the ongoing creating and changing of our world. Creativity is something that we channel from all the people, experiences and energies that surround and penetrate us.

I can trace most of my “good ideas” (at least the ideas that I consider “good”) back to conversations and experiences that I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for friends, family and other people I’ve met. Creativity doesn’t come out of no where, it comes from many places. Out of a network of relationships, ideas evolve and emerge to create something “new”.

I think the way to let these ideas come, the way to let the creativity flow, is to (1) be promiscuous, (2) pay attention, and (3) connect the dots.

(1) Be promiscuous. “Intellectual promiscuity” (as a friend back in Sydney calls it) means reading many different books, hanging out with many different types of people, and learning to see the world through many different lenses. Such promiscuity stimulates creativity.

(2) Pay attention. Take note of what you learn from these sources. What concepts intuitively stand out to you.

(3) Connect the dots. Bringing your notes from above together to create something new.

I may have posted this before, but it’s such a good one I’ll post it again. An RSA Animate – Ken Robinson on how School Kills Creativity:


We are all creative beings, we just have to give ourselves the time and space to discover, explore and express it.


[1] Julia Cameron (1992) The Artist’s Way, Putnam: New York. p. 24.


Saving the Planet with a Sense of Humour

We are a funny species. And immensely arrogant…

George Carlin on saving the planet:


… BUT our arrogant species IS causing damage to our habitat. If we don’t want to go extinct it is in our best interest to stop destroying it. The good news is that lately I’ve been seeing some incredibly inspiring initiatives taking place…

Yesterday I went to a talk by Prof Muhammad Yunus, the dude who started Grameen Bank – a microfinance who lends tiny amounts of money to the very poor so that they can start their own little businesses. I was sceptical about  microfinance until I heard him talk. This bank even provides health insurance for $2.5USD per family per YEAR!

Muhammad emphasised CREATIVITY as the means to solving to our problems. And his new creative solution is an alternative form of business that is not aimed at earning profit – “Social businesses”.

He pointed out that our economic system misinterprets humans as ONE-DIMENSIONAL beings with a sole purpose to make, accumulate and spend money. Businesses reflect this with their sole measurement of success being PROFIT. Countries measure their success by GDP ie PROFIT. Even as individuals we measure our success by profit we have accumulated. The system as it stands is based on selfish goals which are embedded in us as a mechanism for SELF-PROTECTION.

But humans are MULTI-DIMENSIONAL… and social business provides an opportunity for us to actively explore these other dimensions.

Social businesses are CAUSE-DRIVEN – aimed to solve a particular problem in society/the world. That means investors invest their money and receive quarterly/yearly reports on how the business is going with their particular aim.

For example, Danone yoghurt have teamed with Grameen Bank to create a social business dedicated to produce and deliver a yoghurt with added nutrients to children in Bangledesh. If a child eats this yoghurt twice a week for six months they are delivered out of malnutrition. The annual statement for investors reports the number of children their investment has delivered from malnutrition this year. That’s a pretty rewarding news to receive!

The big difference from social business and profit business is that the investors don’t get a profit. Investors do get their money back but after that, any financial profits made are put back into the business and used to expand further on the social cause. Investors continue to own a percentage of the business and forever more they can take pleasure in the people-oriented and planet-oriented goals they are achieving.

An alternative to profit: two options so that when we are satisfied with what we have ourselves, and want to give to others, it can be easy for us to do so. Maybe one day there will be two stock markets – one for financial profit and one for social profit. Maybe even our superannuation funds will give us the option to invest a certain percentage into social profit, and a certain percentage to monetary.  Maybe one day even the big bankers and those with the biggest bank accounts will join in. There really is much more happiness to be gained from a statement that states the number of people you have helped in a year, as opposed to the number of meaningless digits you have accumulated.

I feel inspired. And I pose the question: Can success (individually and collectively) be defined by more than just money?